Denton's Notebook: Sunday, Nov. 25

By John Denton
November 25, 2012

ORLANDO – While he readily admits that he is very much a work in progress as a co-captain of the Orlando Magic, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said he utilizes some of the lessons he learned in Boston in his new role with the Magic.

Davis spent his first four seasons in the NBA with the Celtics before coming to the Magic last November in a sign-and-trade deal. Davis said Celtics’ veterans such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were big influences on his professional career, and even now he still calls Garnett from time to time for advice. In fact, Davis said when he encounters situations where he needs to exert his leadership on his Magic teammates, he thinks about how Garnett or Pierce would have handled the situation.

``I was pretty lucky, really getting drafted going to Boston and seeing the way that high-level players perform and approach every day. You put yourself in their shoes and wonder, `What would they do?’’’ Davis said. ``They went to the next level and became superstars in this league. Hopefully, I can use this as a platform to push me to that next level.’’

Davis’ captaincy isn’t his only new role this season. He’s also a focal point of a team for the first time in the NBA. He spent his four seasons in Boston backing up Garnett, and he came off the bench much of last season in Orlando behind Ryan Anderson.

Now, Davis is looked to every night by the Magic for scoring, rebounding and screening.

``I’ve tried to welcome the opportunity because this is something fresh and something that I’ve always wanted to do,’’ Davis said. ``With the Celtics, K.G. was already there and they had won a championship. But this is an opportunity to be THE guy. My rookie year I didn’t do a lot to win that championship. But with this team I’m one of the main focal points in why we’re successful. You don’t want to shy away from that.’’

COLLEGE EXPERIENCE: While the NBA has been overrun in recent years by players who jumped from high school to the pros or were one-and-done in college, the Magic’s roster is stocked full of players who spent all four years in college.

That is not by accident.

Back in June, the Magic drafted two players – Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn – who both stayed in college for four years. In all, the Magic have eight players on the roster who played four years of college. Two others, Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic played college basketball for three seasons before opting for the NBA.

Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn, who played at Kansas for four seasons before playing in the NBA for 12 years, said there’s a difference between drafting a raw teenager.

``There’s a maturity level that you immediately see, whether it’s how to conduct themselves on a daily basis or how they were able to grab onto concepts,’’ Vaughn said of four-year college players. ``So if you were to umbrella it and say there was one thing about (four-year college players), it’s just their maturity level.’’

HEART AND HUSTLE, PART II: Boston coach Doc Rivers, who got his start in coaching in Orlando in 1999, sees many similarities to the Magic’s famed ``Heart and Hustle’’ team and the one the team is fielding now.

Much like in 1999 when the Magic had traded away stars Penny Hardaway, had a rookie head coach in Doc Rivers and little-to-no expectations of making a playoff run, the current Orlando squad traded away Dwight Howard in the offseason, is adapting to rookie coach Jacque Vaughn and was given little chance to make the playoffs this season.

The 1999-2000 squad under Rivers’ direction stayed in the playoff chase until the final week of the regular season and finished an inspiring 41-41. Already this season’s Magic squad has defied expectations and came into Sunday’s game close to .500 at 5-7.

Rivers sees major similarities between the 1999 squad and the 2012 version. ``There are some (similarities). You lose what they lost in Dwight and people don’t think you are going to do anything, but they come in every night and play hard,’’ Rivers said. ``They probably have a couple more names than the first year I was here with Baby (Davis), (J.J.) Redick and Jameer (Nelson). With our (1999) team you knew Darrell (Armstrong) and Bo (Outlaw) and you had to get to know the rest of them.

``(Pat) Riley told me (in 1999) that the hardest thing preparing for us was that you can’t practice effort in practice,’’ Rivers said. ``I find myself now telling our guys that (this Orlando team) plays hard. And to me, that’s why they win games.’’

ETC: Vaughn got a chuckle out of Davis referring his coaching style that that of ``Ghandi,’’ but he stressed that it’s important for him to stick with a format that is real and his own. Said Vaughn: ``There are different ways to coach, but for me the best thing is for me to be me and not to be like another coach. I’ve always said it’s about finding a solution and it doesn’t have to be my solution. I’m OK approaching a player and asking for feedback or comment. I hope I continue to be that coach because a lot of times players just want to be heard and have someone to listen. A lot of times as coaches, we don’t listen. So I hope I continue to be that kind of coach.’’ … Rivers had high praise for Redick, calling him ``the one who makes them go.’’ … Rivers said he’s seen a dramatic improvement from guard E’Twaun Moore, who spent his rookie season in Boston before signing with the Magic over the summer. Moore entered Sunday’s game averaging 11.1 points per game after averaging just 2.9 points in 38 games last season with the Celtics. Said Rivers: ``E’Twaun is a good player. He has an old man game in that he’s never moving that fast, but he’s always open and he knocks down shots. He’s still learning the point guard position.’’ … The Magic’s five-game home stand – the longest of the season – continues on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Orlando then hosts Brooklyn on Friday before heading to the West Coast for nine days.

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